Optical Illusion Tiles Progress


My journey in creating optical illusion tiles began with drawing out the design directly onto slabs of terracotta. I then created different shades of slip with the use of iron oxide to colour each section: bringing the illusions to life. Although this was fairly rudimentary, it was a start and I was very excited by the possibilities looming.


The next step involved me stepping outside of my comfort zone. I challenged myself with laser cutting Perspex shapes to then cast, resulting in a press mould. This would mean I’d get the same shape tile every time, and saves me a lot of hours measuring out designs into clay slabs.

I am now able to use illustrator in the future as a vital part of the design process, furthermore, I am comfortable using the laser cutter as a method to cut out precise shapes.



For my first outcome, I’m pretty happy with these. They have a flat surface, and that’s thanks to using pespex as the original I material I casted. They need some work, I want them to be sharper, pointier, however as a start I am very happy, and this project has a lot of potential. The next stop for me is to develop the moulds into two parts, making the tile production. Slip casting process.

In my head I have a picture of what I want he tile collection to look like, I just need to hone in on my technical skills in order to make this a reality.img_4554

After completing the final phase of glazing, I have decided that I definitely want to use the spray gun to apply glaze. I know this extremely early on in the process to be making this final decision, but I know that it will lend to the optical illusion idea, I think brush marks will take away from this giving the tiles too much of a painterly, rustic look. I am very happy with the choice of colour though, I am of course going to carry on using blue, it’s my favourite colour do with with in ceramics, so my next task is to develop particular colours.

I am keen to go down the encaustic tile root and make coloured slips. This is an old tradition in  tile making and ensures that when I sand tiles after bisque firing them, the colour will be all the way through, so I won’t be sanding away any patterns, only revealing them.



Optical Illusions

Step wells have served as being the roots of inspiration for my current work. Having always had a fascination with architecture, I enjoy how one can translate architectural elements into clay work. So , taking in the angles and inverted pyramid shapes of step wells;my work began by creating vessels which form up a tangram. These could be used as dipping bowls or for tapas.



Chand Baori step well in Jaipur (or also known as the Pink City)

By working with geometrics, this research has led to me looking  at Escher’s impossible landscapes. I think also this is because Escher’s landscapes remind me of stepwells. Their angles and the questioning of where the end is or vanishing point (the stepwells had water in it so one is unsure about how deep it is or long long it could go on for) lends to a dream like quality. I am also intrigued on the power of a 2d image and its ability to confuse and disorientated the viewer.


Escher was inspired by Swedish graphic artist’s Reutersvard’s impossible shapes. He designed many optical illusions; the pen rose triangle being one of them. He commented illusions “play havoc on the brains intuitive knowledge of physical laws”. This research led to me making a 2d pattern on ceramic appear 3D.


Iron oxide infused slip painted onto terracotta with an aqua translucent glaze

imageI am now playing with the idea of forming a pattern on a 2D surface and making that surface appear 3D. With each 2D element lending to a greater pattern. This idea has come quite organically as I have been making lots of test tiles recently. All with different linear patterns. So the next step is to create tiles,

Architectural Inspiration


The window display for the fancy skincare shop Space NK Apothecary. I enjoy the repetition of shapes which have been gathered together to from a larger sculpture. A 3d pattern.


Barbara Hepworth’s work on the outside of a building in Cheltenham… I didn’t know it was her work at the time I took the photograph, I jus admired the sculptures, it wasn’t until I saw another picture of it somebody else took that they noted how lovely it is to see her work in such an urban, ordinary environment.


Tottenham Court Road tube station.. Eduardo Paolozzi has put his artwork underground



Outside the Design Museum in Kensington, London. We all know I have a thing for geometrics, particularly cubes.


Clutch bags/purses from Oliver Bonas.


Outside Selfridges on Oxford Street


On the coach on the way into central London


Brutalist buildings given a facelift with these tiles/ tile like transfers


In a cafe in Oxford called Turl Street Kitchen…Just look at those tiles: I am in love!

Phoebe Cummings 11th November 2016

As part of our studies, every Friday, Natasha arranges for a professional to speak to us about their practice… This week we had Phoebe Cummings. Below are my notes from her talk; what she told us was very insightful, as it has made me release you can be successful even if you are creative when money is tight; for instance, Phoebe didn’t have a kiln, so she didn’t display fired work. This may seem crazy to a Ceramicist, but it is thinking outside the box which enables one to move forwards, and for Phoebe, displaying unfired, raw clay is one of her trademarks now.

BA at Brighton and MA in Ceramics at RCA

Between 2005- work installed in building she was living in- not firing work.

Threshold 2005, St Pancras Crypt shortly after graduated- made with wetclay

“Maybe I don’t need to fire work”

Declared herself bankrupt because of money spent on studies

Had to work without a studio space and didn’t fire her work

Started building directly on site. Bolwick Hall, Norfolk, 2007

Above and Below… temporary. Below lasted a month before disintegrating.

Residency in Greenland done through a museum- Applied together for funding through the arts council. More research than producing clay work.

Co- Bathroom manufacture factory at Wisconsin- 3 months

Finding a way of hand building with slip. Wasn’t interested in the casting facilities there

Applied to residency at VandA- glass studio space

She doesn’t have a permanent studio space so used the studio space as her installation space- her inhabiting the space for 6 months

Death of the Bear, After the Death of the Bear 2010

Picking up on modelling details. Collection of fragments made by Meissen had a lasting impression on Cummings. Particularly on how the installtions she makes will become pasrt of a collection, fragments- her installtions may have some sort of afterlife as fragments

So much effort preserving things

Replicas last longer than the real artefacts. What is real and what is fictional and the different timescales between the two

Photographs as she goes along- in the end the only artwork which remains is a photograph- but Phoebe sees this more a documentation

Newlyn Art Gallery- Border- Telecommunications mixed with layerings of natural landscapes

Shown with a sound recordist’s music- immersive experience

Siobhan Davies Studios, London, Production Line 2011

Glustani Naples 1800 -1820 Details from ink stand

Interested in working a very public space- enables her to have conversations with people

The Delusion of Grandeur Musuem of Art and Design, New York

Vanitas Jerwood Space, London 2012- at some points your respond to a material and others you control it

Sealed environments- using glass is a recurring theme

Camden Arts Centre London 2013

After the Death of the Bear Britsh Ceramics Biennal


Duncan Ayscough 8th November 2016

As part of helping us understand contextualising creative practice, Duncan, one of our tutors explained to us his timeline of creative practice, what inspires him and his progression of research. Along with this he also told us poignant one-liners about making the most of university and what it has to offer.

So make the most of uni, after all time is money

As he only has 15 days a year to make!

Hans Coper 1969

A predynastic Egyptian pot… a passive yet potent object… minute quantum of energy

Working on the wheel- when something is right on the edge of breaking

Looking a whirl pools and vortexes

Sense of motion

Coloured glaze- material process of copper red glazes energy and tension held within tight forms

Whirl pool galaxy Messier 51a

“I love making something which is moving at the same time”

Energy caught in time- fossils

The anatomical pot

Language and the words that we appropriate to describe a vessel are the same as describing a body


How we appropriate all the different words in our language, but also limits our experience. Always mindful how language can form us and not to let them define you eg- what is an artist and what is in artisan?

Ethiopian pots- ceremonial pots, graphite glaxed pots- British Museum

Roman Amphora- bug vase

Used as measurement

Body scars- Nuba Women of Sudan

Ceramic Decoration

Grayson Perry

Curious pots which have a symbolic notion- embodiments of ailments

Extracting your cough and taking the vessel away and burying it

Waja People- Nigeria

Functionality is just one part, ceremony is another

Anish Kapoor Marsyas- Greek Mythology- a man who had his skin flayed from his body-

A big formalist body, visceral colour, about a body, and tension, about someone to be better than they should be and be a god.

“Sublime moments of realisation- one of those moments seeing Kapoors work

Defining in the power of what creative practice can be”

Exploring values of identity, personal identity. Finger prints of artist (Hans Coper). Index finger is the one he most needs, sense of biometrics and information which makes you “you”. Laser etching onto vases- vinyl cut then sand blasted

Duncan Pottery

Took him to working with a felt maker- Heather Belcher- Academics working within material based practice- textiles, woodwork, graphics

Creators’ synergy of a project- thematic values you may share

“Hand” is one of the oldest word in Northern European language

Stains left on boards became one of the most interesting things

Making felt and pouring slip into it- Felt Matters

Groupings and still life’s

Celadon- colour mid 18th Century from a failed Romantic hero, would always wear pale green. PASTORAL themes mid 18th century: from French céladon, a colour named after the hero in d’Urfé’s pastoral romance L’Astrée (1607–27).

Felt absorbs light- the very opposite to what Duncan work usually looks like

Guldagergaard- Project network

International Ceramic Research Centre

Crucible- different vessels and culturally the names we give them and why they have the names they do

“They’re not useful… But they are useful to look at”

Looked at drug jars from late medieval periods

Medieval apothaceries

Physicians of Myddfai

Title given to different welsh fairy tales

Hannah Ayscough and son Isaac Newton- a real alchemist- father of science- trying to control the material world around him- creativity of alchemy and the science- edge which Duncan finds particularly interesting

Damien Hirst Medicine Cabinet 1989

Mission Gallery in Swansea- 2015


Use your time well and your energy well

Edith Garcia

It was very interesting listening to Edith Garcia talk about her career as a Ceramicist in our 4th November Into the Fold lecture. Especially when she spoke about her residences… from an art student’s perspective and from someone who wants to travel, the possibility of getting involved with a residency excites me!!

Garcia is based in California (where she was born) at the moment teaching at the California College of Arts as a visiting professor..

But before then she has had residencies in the UK including Milton Keynes, Yorkshire,  in USA in Minneapolis… She’s been a few places! One example of a project undertaken during residency is MK Gallery’s Made in MK summer exhibition in 2013.


MK Gallery commissioned Edith to make the ceramic pieces.. Garcia chose to sculpt crows, as she observed that since her time in Britain, they are a signature part of the British landscape. She left these crows at random places across the city, inviting the public to look for them and tweet about them online. This was a fab way to get people to explore the city. Although it made slow progress at the beginning, it picked up, and she hid the crows and gave clues out to where the birds would be. This resulted in there actually being a ‘twitter war” with some birds only lasting for 5 minutes in one place!

Something which gave real renounce for me, as an artist not knowing what I’m specifically going to do when I graduate was her advice

“Do at least one residency a year, it allows you to put your work in a different context in a different space.”

Before going to uni, well actually, well into uni, I hadn’t really consider doing residencies, but I really understand the value of them now, thanks to the talks we’ve had from practicing professionals and their experiences of them. Artists bounce off the environment they’re in, so a change in an environment leads to a progression in one’s work.

She also made a point that

“Sculpture is drawing and drawing is sculpture”

I think there is a perception that pen to paper is the only form of drawing. But one can draw in many different ways. Whether that through sculpting a figure out of clay or even using your body to draw- one could argue that dance is a form of drawing!

Interestingly Garcia’s previous research at the Royal College of Art in London shaped publication of her book Ceramics and the Human Figure. Her MPhil, research topic was  the vanishing point of the human form in sculpture. Her 2 year long course raised the question: how many visual signifiers do you need in an object to make it out to be a human figure? And bought up answers like: we finish a form with our eyes, for example if we see a shape and we can vaguely see nose, we will find in that form eyes and a mouth; a bit like one does when they watch clouds in sky. Also that putting an abstract piece next to more of a figurative piece creates a dialogue…

Her talk definitely helped me see things in a different way, and made me think twice when I next look at a very abstract sculpture of the human form, as us artists have fundamentals of what is what, even though people think we are particularly open minded!